Evergreen resident Angie Carver looked down at the paver honoring her son Ross, a young Marine who was killed during his second tour of duty in Afghanistan three years ago.
Carver was among those gathered at the Veterans Commemorative Walk in Buchanan Park on Sunday afternoon for the ninth annual Blue Star Salute.
A few minutes beforehand, the honor guard from American Legion Post 2001 had fired a 21-gun salute and played taps in tribute to living and deceased veterans. About 20 people in attendance listened silently to the gunfire and the somber tune that resonated through the park and faded into the wind.
Gazing at the small crowd composed primarily of veterans and their families, Carver expressed her disappointment at the turnout.
“All these people have fought and died for us, and no one is here to say ‘thank you,’ ” she said.
Marine Lance Cpl. Ross Carver was 21 years old when he died, said Carver.
“He got shot in the head while holding a bayonet,” she said.
Before his death, Ross had seen his infant son once after his birth, she said. When Ross died, the baby was 5 months old.
In joining the Marines when he was barely 18 years old, Ross realized a dream of serving in the military, which he had since childhood, said Carver.
“He was Army all the way,” she said. “I signed his (enlistment) papers for him when he was 17. That’s all he wanted.”
Carver said that, as a child, Ross wore his hair in a crew cut and donned fatigue-style pants. He also was interested in being with members of the American Legion, she added.
“I want to go where the old guys meet,” Carver remembers her son saying.
Carver said she is both a Blue and Gold Star mother. She has another son, Robert, who is in the Marines and has served tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Gold Star symbolizes parents of children who have died in military service, and the Blue Star honors those on active duty.
Among the veterans who came to the Armed Forces Day event that began earlier in the afternoon at the Evergreen Elks Lodge were Charles Bass and Joe Price.
Bass served as an Army chaplain with a battalion of the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam in the 1960s.
“I was with the 101st when they went into Cambodia,” Bass said. “We were scattered around … I seldom saw the same soldier twice.”
Bass said he stayed with the troops that went into villages and confiscated caches of weapons.
“I gave them spiritual support; I baptized them,” he said.
He remembers one baptism that he conducted in a Cambodian river in an area that was in an unsecured zone.
“They said, ‘You could be shot by snipers,’ ” Bass said.
However, while he was performing the baptism, Bass said, he saw that the unit commander had posted guards along the river.
Families of those in military service appreciate the presence of chaplains, said Bass.
“It makes people feel that their sons and daughters are cared for. … We are serving to protect the right of freedom of religion.”
Price was stationed on a Navy aircraft carrier off the coast of Vietnam in the early 1970s.
“We were there when they signed the Paris Peace Accords,” he said.
A past post commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8661 in Bailey, Price now is involved in the Troop Support Action Committee of the Pinecam network. He and others involved in TSAC collect goods to send to troops in Iraq.
“The generosity of people in the community is amazing,” he said. “Sometimes it’s the little things like energy bars that soldiers appreciate — just something from home,” Piece said.
While asking for donations to send to soldiers overseas, some people say, “I’m against war,” Pierce said.
“I say, ‘I’m against war too, but I support the warriors,’ ” he remarked.
Contact Sandy Barnes at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 303-350-1042.